Does Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer" have a pedophile vibe? (spoilers obviously)

I just read this golden age science fiction story for the first time. While classic Heinlein, it does have a plot element that’s a bit strange where the hero, a grown 30 year old man, is very sincerely and deliberately promising an 11 year old girl who is in love with him, and whom he is in love with, that he will marry her when she is 21. There is both ageless cold sleep hibernation, and time travel involved so when they finally get married and have sexual relations (and children) she is 21 (physically) and he is 30 (physically) . I should note that he has never met her as an adult before making this promise, all this planning to marry is all based strictly on his current love for her as a 30 year old man for an 11 year old child.

The mariage promise scene stuck me as a bit oogy. Was there anyone who noted this was a bit weird that when the story came out in the late 50’s, or was pedo sensitivity not so pronounced back then?

Haven’t read much Heinlein, have you?

You should be thankful she isn’t actually his mother.

Yeah. I think Heinlein’s plan was to show that there are people who are exactly right for each other, and in a time-travel story he was showing that even generational barriers can be broken down when two people meant for each other meet.

But the way it came off, it was pretty squicky. Having the main character being clearly in love with a ten year old child is pretty far outside of societal norms, and even the ‘out’ of having her grow up before the love is consummated doesn’t make up for the pedophilic vibe it gives off.

I do think it was unintentional. I don’t think Heinlein was a pedophile, and I don’t think he meant to suggest that pedophilia was even remotely okay. It was just an exploration of the ramifications of time travel that didn’t work.

That said, Heinlein was certainly more sexually adventurous than most people. He skirted the boundaries of sexual convention in his writing many times, including incest and other unsavory topics. There are indications that in real life he and his wife were ‘swingers’. And he never had children, so he couldn’t relate as a parent.

Not a ton. In a different “golden age” story I was surprised to see a huge (practically pornographic, and no I’m not over-stating it) incest vibe in the science fiction classic “Children Of The Lens” by E.E. “Doc” Smith of Kinnison “penetrating” his mother’s mind.

Who is that writer who includes such subplots in just about every single novel of his? Piers Anthony?

It’s rumored that the “unwritten” 7th Lensman story involved a nice group marriage between the same Kit Kinnison (who’d penetrated his mom’s mind) and his 4 sisters. They had all been the product of millenia-long breeding to eliminate all the bad genes, after all.

Heinlein had reportedly read Smith’s notes and discussed the story with Smith.

But yeah, Heinlein was more than a bit of a perv. I found his parent-child incest scenarios (Lazarus Long and his mom, Lazarus and his “clone sibling-daughters”, Lazarus’ dad with Laz’s sister) waaaay squicky.

Or actually his thousand-year old trannie grandfather. Yeah, a lot of Heinlein’s work contains some edgy sexualities.

Not all of them by any means. But a number of Anthony’s more recent books have had controversial subplots. The most notorious was Firefly, a SF/horror novel which does have what are reportedly explicit scenes with pre-teen children initiating sex with adults and other children.

Wow. This was my favorite book as a kid (it and, for some reason, A Fall of Moondust). I read it a thousand times, er, give or take. I re-read it a couple of years ago just for nostalgia’s sake. I never once found it oogy or squicky or creepy. It never ever dawned on me that there was a pedophilia subtext. It never crossed my mind, not even for a split second. I’m not naive either. I had way too much first-hand experience with pedophilia as a child.

I did this: :eek::confused: when I saw the Subject Line.

I guess, without even thinking about it, I assumed that he assumed that she would change her mind and either not show up, or just want to be friends while experiencing the future with him.

Man, now I have to read it again. Jesus.

The book came out the year after Lolita. Compared to it, The Door into Summer was quite chaste.

I recall Michael Cassutt said the book was unfilmable, and had the same objections as you. When I read his column, it actually took me a bit to figure out what he was talking about, since there was no suggestion of physical contact in the book.

Read Silverberg’s The World Inside.

I don’t go for the smilies but this is one case where about six of them would apply – gee, I wonder what frustrated aspect of the fanboy demographic this was pandering to . . . .

No feminist I, but it’s a reminder of what a significant proportion of “free love utopia” stuff seems to have been originated within the mind of creepy dudes who wanted a dogmatic basis for getting action they couldn’t otherwise get . . . .

I’d agree with you here. Been a while since I read it, but it always struck me that Dan was only doing a “Sure sure, kid. Whatever you want.” He saw it all as a schoolgirl’s crush and that by the time the he’d have to fulfill the promise – if that time ever came – Ricky would have moved on.

That characterization might be plausible if there wasn’t also this just before the marriage promise scene.

I’m glad I’m not the only one! He was very fond of her, she was a cool, smart kid, but he was humoring her about the getting married bit.

Look, if the guy were a pedophile, he would have wanted her to stay her age. Take the Sleep with him NOW, so she’d be young in the future, and they could pass themselves off as father and daughter with no one the wiser.

astro, do you think the Time Traveler in The Time Traveler’s Wife is a pedophile too? (I’m only going by the movie, I haven’t read the book. In the movie he meets the kid, then tells her where and when they’ll meet up in the future, so they can have a relationship and get married.)

Spider Robinson did something similar in Variable Star (based on an old 8-page outline found in Heinlein’s effects, which he never turned into a novel).


  1. Delightful, lovable, and charming: an adorable set of twins.
  2. Worthy of adoration.

I never equated “adorable” with “sexually desirable”. I have no sexual interest in pre-pubescent girls, but I have seen some that I would probably consider adorable in the sense of being delightful or charming. I’ve even occasionally thought that when they got older they’d probably have to beat boys off with a stick, without thinking that I should make a note of looking them up when they attained legal age.

The World Inside is a very black satire of what rejecting the zero population growth movement that was beginning might mean. The Urbmons have 75 billion people in giant skyscrapers living in what’s supposed to be a utopia. It’s really a dystopia that comments on almost everything about early 70’s society.

I can’t tell whether you didn’t understand this or not, but let me assure Huerta88 that you can’t read anything it says totally straight any more than you can read *Lolita *that way.

The Door Into Summer is such a bad book that I’ve given up trying to figure out whether Heinlein meant what he wrote in it. All the females in the book are horrifying caricatures of humanity. It’s the pciture in the dictionary next to “examples of sickening sexism in sf of the 50s.” Is it consciously or unconsciously so? Beats me. It’s still really ugly.

I haven’t read ‘‘The Door into Summer’’ but I agree with your assessment of how Heinlein writes females. I can’t stand his stuff for that reason.

Judging by the quoted bits in this thread, the protagonist was humoring a little girl.

I really can’t see anything squicky in it at all. The protagonist arranges matters such that, first, it’ll be entirely Ricky’s decision what will happen, and second, that Ricky will be an adult and have had plenty of time to consider before she makes that decision. 11-year-old Ricky didn’t have to make any decision at all on the matter, and 21-year-old Ricky is a fully-consenting adult.

As for the promise to marry, there’s two things to note: First, it was Ricky who suggested it, not Dan. Second, at that point in the story, Dan’s just been through some very bad turns, and at that moment, there are only two other people in the Universe he really believes he can trust, and the other one is a cat. Under the circumstances, it would seem quite natural to him that he would be willing to marry a grown-up Ricky, since he’s been burned too badly to marry anyone else.